Treven Keeling graduated last week from the Oregon National Guard Youth Challenge Program , which he said turned his life around and gave him a new focus. - Julia Moore

'I've changed my life so significantly'

After Treven Keeling dropped out of Central Medford High School five months ago, his mother dropped him off at a "high school boot camp" in Bend.

It was the Oregon National Guard Youth Challenge Program and there were no cellphones, no iPods, no junk food and no video games allowed.

"The only communication device we got was a pencil — and it couldn't be a mechanical pencil," said Treven, 17. "It was basically like high school boot camp."

Treven initially had a hard time adjusting to the rigid military structure of the academy, but then he grew to appreciate it and began to thrive, his mother, Betty Rabner, said.

He graduated last week with a high school diploma, two scholarships to attend Rogue Community College and a newfound plan for his life.

"I want to go to college and join the workforce now," Treven said Thursday at the Department of Veterans Affairs Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinic in White City, where he is volunteering 30 hours a week. "It feels fantastic to know I've changed my life so significantly."

Before dropping out of Central, Treven shuffled through three area high schools, moving from Cascade Christian to North Medford to Grants Pass. A gifted student who was bored with the traditional classroom setting, he didn't do his homework and skipped class, Rabner said.

Last winter, he was failing most of his classes at Central and wasn't on track to graduate within the next year.

"I knew we had to do something to change his path," said Rabner, who works as a nurse at SORCC.

Through a family member, she discovered the challenge program and encouraged Treven to apply, seeing it as his only hope to graduate on time.

"This program turned his life around and I really want Southern Oregon parents and students to know that it's available," Rabner said.

The residential high school program is free for the 156 students accepted, and runs for five months. To apply, students must be high school dropouts, Oregon residents and between 16 and 18 years old. To enter the academy, students must also be drug free and not on probation or parole.

Teachers and drill sergeants use a tough-love approach with students, requiring them to follow rigorous rules.

"During the first week we learned how to do everything step-by-step," Treven said. "Like, when we were getting dressed, we'd grab one sock, hold it high in the air and put it on in 10 seconds."

The program is run jointly by the National Guard and the Bend-La Pine School District. Senior students may earn either a high school diploma or a general equivalency diploma and those in lower grades can earn eight credits that will transfer back to their home school. Graduates can decide to enter the military, get a job or go to college.

Treven, who loves computers and math, hopes to transfer from RCC to an Oregon university and become a meteorologist. In the meantime, he's volunteering and looking for a summer job.

Although Treven didn't decide to join the military, the drill training he received at the academy has stuck with him — something Rabner said she's grateful for.

"I was accustomed to taking orders for five months," Treven said. "So now when I'm told to unload the dishwasher, I just get up and do it."

Reach reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-776-4459 or email

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